CHICAGO — In what's been a winless season thus far, the Browns have been undone by self-inflicted wounds and missed opportunities.
Perhaps none of them were as backbreaking as what happened in Sunday's 20-3 loss to the Bears.
Trailing by a field goal, rookie defensive end Myles Garrett jumped a quick pass from Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and ran it back for a touchdown, stiff-arming a player or two on the way. The play sent Cleveland's sideline into a celebration as Garrett and his teammates rejoiced in the end zone.
It was all for naught. An offsides penalty nullified the play as Cleveland watched a tide-turning moment in a must-win game give way to another frustrating loss. Three plays later, the Bears scored again and never looked back.
"That is inexcusable … It's just not where we need to be. We need to do that part better. We can get lined up correctly," coach Hue Jackson said.
"That was a huge opportunity in the game to get a lead. When you don't get those plays, the other team is going to turn around and make a play. It's kind of like a double-edged sword."
These are the kinds of things that have hampered the young Browns as Sunday's loss dropped them to 0-15 and 1-30 over the past two years. Jackson made as much clear in his postgame news conference, reflecting on what could have been the difference in a game where both offenses struggled on a cold and snowy afternoon off the shore of Lake Michigan.
"When you're losing like we have, these are the things that come up," he said. "There are the types of plays that start getting made and things start getting questionable. We need to go back to work and continue to finish this off the right way."
Garrett's interception would have been the Browns' first takeaway since Christian Kirksey strip-sacked Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles in Week 11. Cleveland's defense hoped to end that turnover drought this weekend in Chicago while the Browns' offense — which leads the NFL with 39 giveaways — hoped to curb its own miscues.
Instead, the Browns committed three turnovers (including two in the second half) and were called for eight penalties, including one for unsportsmanlike that set up the Bears' first touchdown. Against that backdrop, Garrett's big play that wasn't loomed large as Cleveland hopes to avoid the first winless season in franchise history next week against the Steelers.
While the Browns continue to struggle with those kinds of errors, they hope to have better luck in Pittsburgh.
"I'm surprised but it's kind of been like this right now," Jackson said of his team's giveaways and mental lapses.
"I take responsibility for all of it, like I keep telling you guys. Am I surprised by the things that happened right now? Yeah. But at the same time, when you're not winning, these are the things that happen. They just do. Like I keep telling our players, we're going to keep getting better and we're not going to let it define us. We just have to keep working at it. It's unfortunate but that's what it is."